BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum
As a first-round draft pick for the Washington Nationals back in 2005, there has always been high expectations for infielder Ryan Zimmerman. Thirteen seasons later, he is finally vaulting into one of the most dangerous players in the league at 32 years of age.
Although the Nationals are merely a fifth of the way through an exhausting 162 game schedule (played 31 games as of Sunday night), Zimmerman is dominating the majors and second place is nowhere to be seen. Here is a list of the statistical categories that Zimmerman leads (followed by second place):
- Hits: 47 (2nd- 43)
- Home runs: 13 (tied with Aaron Judge)
- RBIs: 34 (2nd- 28)
- Batting Average: .435 (2nd- .377)
- Slugging Percentage: .907 (2nd- .772)
- On-base percentage plus slugging (OPS): 1.382 (2nd- 1.227)
In addition, the first baseman is second in doubles (12), tied for third in runs (28), and trails only Bryce Harper in on-base percentage (.475). The only players that are on the same level of the 13-year veteran is none other than his teammate, Harper. Playing in two fewer games than Zimmerman, Harper is in the top-10 in all those categories as well.
It is without a doubt the 32-year-old is seeing the ball better than he has in years. Already, he is in mid-season form and should be a lock to make his second career All-Star game. He has helped carry Washington to an NL best 21-10 record, missing only one game.
Prior to this season, Zimmerman was in a steady decline and was facing numerous injury issues. The 2009 All-Star had missed a large chunk of the 2014-16 seasons. In the three-year span, he only played in 55 percent of the regular season games and was passed around from third, to left field, and eventually placed at first.
Last season in 115 games, he had one of his worst performances of his career. As a starting first-baseman, he had career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Take away his first season (20 games) and 2014 (61 games) and those career-lows grows to include doubles, RBIs, and total bases.
Back in 2006, he was the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting to Hanley Ramirez and was named a Silver Slugger in 2009 and 2010.
Now, it's still early in the 2017 season and it would be ridiculous to expect Zimmerman to keep up this pace as the season goes on. However, he is the early contender for NL MVP and, barring any setbacks, should be able to hold on to consistent numbers throughout the year.
One thing that Nationals fans can sure hang their hat on though, is that the former first round pick is back on track in being one of the best players in not only the National League, but the majors as well.
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